Romania backs US plan to host anti-missile shield
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Romania’s top defence body approved a plan by Washington on Thursday to deploy interceptor missiles in the Black Sea state as part of a missile shield to protect Europe, President Traian Basescu said.
REUTERS - Romania’s top defence body approved a plan by Washington on Thursday to deploy interceptor missiles in the Black Sea state as part of a missile shield to protect Europe, President Traian Basescu said.
The announcement came unexpectedly and Basescu gave few details on the project. But it appeared to be part of the revamped approach taken by U.S. President Barack Obama since he scrapped a Bush-era plan for a radar site and interceptor rockets in the Czech Republic and Poland.
The missile shield has angered eastern Europe’s former Cold War master Russia, who sees it as a threat to its own nuclear arsenal and has bristled at what it says is Washington’s meddling in its sphere of influence.
A Kremlin spokesman declined to comment and said the foreign ministry would issue a statement on the matter on Friday.
Basescu said the Supreme Defence Council Romania’s top military and security authority had approved a U.S. proposal to include Romania in a system against “potential attacks with ballistic missiles or medium-range rockets”.
The U.S. offer was brought to Bucharest by Ellen Taucher, Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control who leads a team of American experts in Romania, Basescu said.
“Terrestrial interceptors will be located inside the national territory,” he said.
He said the U.S. facilities were expected to become operational in 2015 but the plan’s specifics, now under discussion with U.S. partners, would need parliamentary approval in order to come into force.
In past years, parliament has solidly backed participation in U.S. and NATO-led military ventures, including Romanian troop deployments to hotspots like Iraq and Afghanistan.
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NO THREAT TO RUSSIA
Obama’s decision to scrap the Bush plan disappointed both Prague and Warsaw.
Poland has expressed a readiness to take part in the new project and could potentially host some of the SM-3 interceptors that target short and medium-range missiles. But officials have made no further public comment on the issue in recent months.
“The U.S. has determined that Romania is well-suited for the location of this system to provide protection for European NATO Allies,” the U.S. embassy in Bucharest said in a statement.
Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi said the plan was first presented to Basescu during a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden to Bucharest in October but was not made public.
“This became official today,” Baconschi said.
Unlike some other EU states, popular support for U.S. military policy is very high in Romania. It hosts a small base at the Black Sea and training facilities, part of a Pentagon shift from large Cold War-era centres in western Europe towards smaller installations nearer hot spots such as the Middle East.
Basescu said participation of Romania, a European Union and NATO member of 22 million perched in the southeast corner of the continent, was not meant to threaten Moscow.
“The new system is not against Russia. I want to categorically stress this, Romania (will) not host a system against Russia, but against other threats,” he said.
Obama’s revamped plan, unveiled last September, includes land-and sea-based missile systems in and around the Gulf to defend against what it says is a growing Iranian missile threat.
His administration argues the plan addresses those threats more effectively than the Bush plan, although it has drawn ire from Tehran, which accuses Washington of stirring up anti-Iranian sentiment.